SALEM, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- A heat lamp used to keep chicks warm in a garage is being blamed for starting a fire that badly damaged a home in Salem, Illinois.

Marshall Helm had no idea the lamp had fallen over and started a fire in a neighbor's garage when he was walking his granddaughter to the bus stop Wednesday morning, around 7:30 a.m.

"Bus driver hung out the door and tried to get my attention and he said 'fire, fire, fire.' And I looked over here and sure enough, I saw a fire coming through that window," Helm said.

The 70-year-old said he ran to a door on the side of the garage and after pushing it open, he saw the flames climbing a wall. But he said there was enough space to get past them and he ran into the house trying to alert his neighbors.

"I was hollering 'fire, fire, you got to get out of here. Anybody in here.' And I kept repeating, 'is anybody in here,'" he said.

Gary and Kathy Benjamin were still in bed at the time. When they woke to the sound of the shouting, they said they were a little confused and disoriented.

"Oh my God, I didn't know what was happening," said Kathy Benjamin.

By the time the Benjamins walked out into the hallway, they said the doorway Helm had used to enter the home would have been impossible to use as an exit.

"All I saw was flames coming through the wall," said Gary Benjamin.

All three were able to get out of the home through a backdoor. The Benjamins said they weren't hurt but were in shock and breathed in a lot of smoke.

Despite being 70 years old and battling cancer, the former Vietnam-era veteran and B-29 mechanic, said he didn't hesitate to run into the burning home because all he was thinking about was getting his neighbors to safety.

The Benjamins said 40 years of possessions are gone but that possessions can always be replaced. They're grateful to have escaped their burning home and are calling their neighbor a "hero."

"Lifesaver, lifesaver is all I can say," said Gary Benjamin. His wife added, "Hero, he's our angel."

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Benjamins recover after the devastating fire. Click here to support he family.

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